Anuya Jakatdar is a young youtube professional and someone who has made me look at the twenty something-social-media-loving people with new-found respect. It is easy to dismiss her generation with sweeping labels such as ‘intellectually innocent’ or ‘linguistically ignorant’ and I must confess that I have been guilty of doing that myself. But for all the literary snobbery of my generation, I realize that Anuya is doing far more to get people back to reading, that too at a menial price, than most of us ever have. Anuya founded Books on Toast, a book donation drive that aims at raising money for small and often neglected NGOs from the city nearly four years ago. Using social media to create awareness for a social cause may not be ingenious, but it is certainly far nobler than using it for self-important outrage and arm chair evangelism as some of us are prone to doing. Putting her presence across FB and Twitter to good use, Anuya managed to create awareness about her book donation drive and book lovers from across the city responded wholeheartedly.
Books on Toast 2015, held on August 23rd and 24th, 2015 not only managed to organize an aggressive book donation drive with its exiguous resources but also managed to raise Rs 78,000 for the Dharavi Art Project, an NGO dedicated to bringing art into the lives of children living in Dharavi.
In partnership with The HIVE at Khar, Books on Toast transformed into a two-day books destination with a lot more activities added to the agenda that range from book signings and readings by popular authors to a Book Pub Quiz and a Book Exchange Party, making it a true celebration of books and those passionate about them.
As an author I participated in the event in a discussion on Women and Humour along with Kiran Manral (moderated by the screamingly funny Kunal Kamra) but my book-loving conscience is bristling from not having done enough. Truth be told, I was unable to part with my books due to a strong emotional ties to them, even the really trashy ones.
Q.Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Ans. I’m a dreamer, believer… sorry readers, this is an inside joke between Shunali and I. I’m a corporate slave by day, and a conceptualiser of impossible to monetise passion projects involving books by night. I’m 29 years old, and besides books, I love beer, TV, travel, Twitter and Bollywood dancing.
Q. When and how did the idea of Books on Toast strike?
I was 22, studying inside a cold, cold hell (with a great Journalism programme) named Syracuse in upstate New York, when a library decided to sell books they’d received in a donation drive to raise funds for themselves. I bought 27 books for $8, and even though I have a feeling my brain changes this number to make it seem more fantastic every time (pretty sure I’ll be saying 13000 books for .5 cents or something 2 months from now) I still ended up buying Cider House Rules, Stardust, Wizard and Glass (Stephen King) and whatnot. I was deliriously happy. When I came back, I wanted to replicate that experience here, so I decided to do Books On Toast.
Q. What was the initial response? Did it meet your expectations?
Phenomenal, which is bad because it really spoils you. But we raised 50K that first weekend, and we were expecting like, 15. And people were lining up outside the venue at 12 pm, which was just unbelievable, I mean, who DOES that on a Saturday morning I love books and everything but pants are such an effort on a weekend.
Q. Your event at Hive last weekend was a huge success too. Did it surprise you? The venue was packed from what I remember.
See this is what I mean by early success spoiling you. I was expecting more people, more ticket sales, more everything!So much so that my friends had to sit me down and be all, Anuya, this is a great event, you’re a smalltime book lover with free weekends, not Taylor Swift, stop expecting to fill a stadium with screaming fans.
Q.Given that yours is a small organization, how did you go about finding a venue partner for the BOT2015 weekend?
I tweeted about a possible venue for a version 2.0 of Books on Toast, and Sharin (Bhatti) from The HIVE got it touch. Then we met a couple of times and they were very clear that they wanted to come on board as partners, and not just a venue. Thank God, because without them I’d be peddling used books under a tree in Bandra till cops chased me away.
Q.Are young people today reading books that go beyond vampire love stories?
I wouldn’t know how to speak on behalf of all young people, or even if I count as young people anymore considering how much I detest Snapchat (what is the point of that app, really) but I want to believe that they do read books that go beyond vampire love stories. Especially since vampire love stories are so passe’ now. It’s all about loving zombies or cancer patients or zombies that were cancer patients.
Q.What are the other events that you have done as part of your BOT initiative?
Yesterday we did a Book Exchange Party! It was really fun, and what I’d like to describe as “intimate” which is basically code for “not enough people came”, but everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves and you have to start somewhere, right? We also did a book quiz, a session on how to get your first novel published, readings and signings, Shakespeare for Dummies, an Open Mic for Unpublished Authors etc. This time it was about what we could do, next time it would be about what people would like us to do.
Q.How many waking hours do you spend reading?
At least an hour a day, so 7 hours a week, so 28 hours a month, so won’t calculate anymore but you get the idea. A lot. Much more on holiday, but basically I am never between books because I read 3 at a time.
Q.What are you reading currently? Who are your favourite authors?
I’m reading Persepolis IRL (I’ve watched the movie but I finally found time to read the book) and End of the World Running Club by Adrian K Walker on my Kindle, which is this post-apocalyptic story of a man looking for his family. Super dark and horrifying stuff, which is exactly what I like to read before I go to bed hugging my Olaf stuffed toy.
Favourite authors are George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman, John Irving, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Truman Capote and just so many more. I just finished reading World War Z. It broke me.
These days I find myself buying books at airports, or on my Kindle. I can’t believe how much my Kindle has changed my life. Any book I want is at my fingertips, so I just go through various reading lists (Buzzfeed has some great ones) and load up. That way I’m never without a book, and the number of books I’m reading has doubled.
I’m on my way to becoming a crazy book lady with cats and sherry.
Q. Have you been approached by any sponsors for your future events yet? This is a cause that publishers, book-sellers must surely want to engage with.
Not yet, but I hope that given the success of this one, they will. We’re definitely open to sponsorships. It’s a great space for any sponsor who wants to target young, hip and passionate people. Also, just search #BoT2015 and see, we have crazy social media impressions. The whole event got almost 10 Mil! It’s amazing. Also amazing – we raised Rs 78,000 for Dharavi Art Room. That’s the number I am most proud of.